Being advised to contact Fig might have a fruitful outcome but perhaps we have gone to the wrong translator

It looked – for a few moments – as if the government was again favouring something from The Bible when looking for Te Reo names for its agencies and programmes.

One thing they want to avoid, for reasons only they can explain, is to connect the name too directly with the actual work done.

In the good old days, a visitor to this country who saw a sign that said “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade” could reasonably conclude this was the agency whose staff handled the country’s foreign affairs and trade activities.  Likewise, the prosaic but uncomplicated names of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health effectively and unambiguously signal the nature of the work undertaken by those state agencies.

In short, these are user-friendly names.

But if you are told you might benefit from attending a state-funded Piki programme – what help or service should you expect?

If you don’t understand Te Reo and seek help from a translator, you might be left puzzled.

More people are about to benefit from Piki, because Julie Anne Genter said so:

Today’s expansion of youth mental health pilot Piki to the Wairarapa DHB region means young people living in rural settings will receive better mental health support, says Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter.

The statement further explains:

Piki is a pilot programme which helps 18-24 year olds with mild to moderate mental health needs or substance use challenges.

Trouble is, the name of the programme seems bound to bewilder people – at least some and maybe many – who have not read the press statement and haven’t learned Te Reo.

If they followed our example and made an initial attempt at a translation through Google,  they would be somewhat nonplussed by the very unhelpful response:  the word “fig“.

On the other hand, this at least is consistent with the government’s practice nowadays of concocting curious Te Reo names with a Biblical flavour which typically result in the purpose of the relevant public policy, programme  or activity being heavily disguised.

A Te Reo word that means “fig” therefore did  not surprise us, because of the obvious Biblical association. 

The fig tree is the third tree to be mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible. The first is the Tree of life and the second is the Tree of the knowledge of good and evilAdam and Eve used the leaves of the fig tree to sew garments for themselves after they ate the “fruit of the Tree of knowledge” (Genesis 2:16-17), when they realized that they were naked (Genesis 3:7).

But Point of Order recognised there may well be other meanings and went to the online Maori Dictionary, which provided these possibilities:

1. (verb) (-tia) to come to the rescue of, support, assist.

Ko te toa ki uta e pikitia ana, ko te toa ki te wai tē pikitia (W 1971:281). / The warrior on the land will be assisted, the warrior on the water will not be assisted. (A whakataukī.)

2. (noun) supporter, assistant, helper, understudy.

Ko wai hei piki mō tuahangata o te whakaari? (RMR 2017). / Who will be an understudy for the principal male character of the play?

Further possibilities came from the same source:

1. (verb) (-a,-tia) to climb, scale, ascend, climb over, get on.

Ka kite hoki taku tuakana i a au e tū ana i te taha o te huarahi i tō mātau kāinga, ka whakatū ia i ana hōiho, kia pikiatu au ki runga i te rore, ka noho i tōna taha (HP 1991:22). / When my elder brother saw me standing at the side of the road at our home he stopped his horses and I climbed onto the lorry and sat beside him.

2. (noun) ascent, climb.

Ka kaha ake nei ōna pūkenga me ōna mōhiotanga ki ngā mahi, ka tīmata te piki haere o tana tūranga (TTR 2000:243). / As his skills and knowledge improved he began the climb up the ranks.

3. (noun) success.

I tēnei wā, he nui ngā piki me ngā heke kei te pā ki te ahurea a te Māori (Te Ara 2015). / At this time there are many ups and downs affecting Māori culture.
Ahakoa pā iho te aha ki a Rēweti, pā iho anō hoki ki a Keita, arā, te pāpouri, te harakoakoa, tae atu ki ngā piki me ngā heke o ōna rā (TTR 1996:69). / No matter what affected Rēweti, it also affected Keita, that is the sorrows and joys, and the triumphs and setbacks.

No matter which of those meanings might apply in this case, a specific association with mentally unwell young people and the services being provided at public expense to improve their wellbeing is far from clear.  Being advised to go to “Fig” for help would be somewhat less informative than being advised to contact “Assist“, but not much.

One thought on “Being advised to contact Fig might have a fruitful outcome but perhaps we have gone to the wrong translator

  1. A very good point. If the proponents of Te Maori want to spread the word faster and more effectively, they would do better to use the Maori word with English in brackets so people can start to learn and understand Maori language better by being given some context. Over time the need for brackets will diminish and the spread of Te Reo (Maori language) will speed up. IMHO (In My Humble Opinion).


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